Reconciliation Starts with Relationship

By Doug Franklin June 3, 2020

Around 1996 I was serving at the last African American, one-room schoolhouse in Pawleys Island, South Carolina. I had been traveling down there on and off for the last 12 years. A new leader had risen in the African American community named Van, and he and I began to develop a relationship.

We both loved students and wanted them to know the Lord. He asked me to come and help on a few youth events in the community. These events were very different from the suburban church events I was accustomed to leading. I learned so much from Van about how to reach kids that were, in my mind, unreachable. I loved how Van brought the Word of God to life in a way I could never understand. I learned how Jesus works in a community that was not like mine, had different values and different challenges, and where success looked very different.  These lessons transformed my Christian life.  

Van was a great teacher, and I had a lot to learn.

I went to Van one day and told him I wanted to be partners in ministry with him. He was skeptical because we were very different. He told me we could be partners but only if I was willing to look at a partnership like a marriage—we would need to love each other on our good days and bad days, and we would always need to be committed to each other.

I took my vow to him seriously, and I am glad I did. I have had so many God-honoring adventures with Van and through him, I am still learning of the hurt in the African American community and about the grace of God for all people.

When it was time for me and Angie to get married, I asked Van if he would do the ceremony. He said yes, but only if God gave him a picture of what our marriage would be. Two days before the wedding, Van told me we were good to go.

Van married us, and I keep learning from my friend.

I asked Van once if African Americans understand the white world, and he said yes. I then asked if white people understand the African American world, and he said no. 

I constantly return to this truth as I watch the events of this week unfold. We have not taken the time to build relationships, and that lack of relationships leads to frustrations we can’t understand.

Real reconciliation starts with relationships.


Want help building relationships that lead toward reconciliation?

Get started with this free discipleship lesson about unity in the body of Christ. Jesus tells us that as members of his body, we are incredibly important and valued, no matter what we look like or where we come from. Use this lesson helps students begin a conversation about racism and explore a Christ-like response in the face of this evil that is wounding our people and our country. Belonging to the Body is taken from our new yearlong curriculum, Pursuit.

About the Author

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners  who never leave their side. Doug grew up in…  Read More